HOUSTON (AP) — A Texas boy who was found in March after having been kidnapped eight years ago as an infant has begun getting to know his parents through weekly joint therapy sessions with them, attorneys and child welfare officials said Wednesday.
The attorneys said they hope this is another step that will eventually lead the boy to be permanently reunited with his parents. Authorities allege Miguel Morin, now 8, was taken as an infant, and his baby sitter and her mother remain jailed on kidnapping charges.
State District Judge Mike Schneider ordered after a court hearing Wednesday that the boy remain in foster care until the next court hearing on Jan. 9.
William Thursland, a court appointed attorney for Miguel, said the boy has been told who his biological parents are and the joint therapy sessions that began about a month ago are being used as a way for the boy and his parents to get to know each other.
"It's just barely begun so he's cautious," Thursland said. "It's going well but it's just going to take time."
Auboni Champion-Morin and Fernando Morin, Miguel's parents, who live in Houston and are both 29, declined to comment after Wednesday's hearing.
Mark Cooper, Fernando Morin's attorney, said Miguel is being carefully reintroduced to the "real people in his life."
"It's going gently and slowly and appropriately and progress is being made and it looks good," he said.
Champion-Morin's attorney, Itze Soliz-Matthews, said the joint therapy sessions were going "very well."
All attorneys in the case declined to offer more details about the therapy sessions.
The boy has been in foster care since authorities found him in March living in East Texas with Krystle Tanner, who had been Miguel's baby sitter in Houston. Investigators believe she kidnapped the boy in 2004 when he was just 8 months old and concealed his identity for years.
Tanner and her mother, Gloria Walker, each have been charged with kidnapping and injury to a child. They have pleaded not guilty and remain jailed in San Augustine, about 140 miles northeast of Houston.
Estella Olguin, a spokeswoman for Child Protective Services in Houston, said the goal remains to reunite Miguel with his parents.
She said while it was unusual that about five months passed after Miguel was found before he was allowed to meet with his parents, that came at the recommendation of his therapist due in part to the unusual circumstances of the case.
"We wanted to do what was in the best interest of Miguel and make the transition smooth and less traumatic for him," Olguin said.
Miguel was expected by the end of the month to start meeting, in a therapeutic setting, with his four siblings, who are living with Juanita and Joseph Aguillard, a Houston couple who have been taking care of the Morins' other children under an agreement between the couples.
His siblings "can't wait to see him," said Joseph Aguillard.
Olguin said when authorities found Miguel, he had never gone to school, was unable to read or write and functioned at a level below kindergarten. Now with additional help he has received, including once a week tutoring, he has caught up and is now attending second grade.
"He is doing really remarkably. He's really a great little man," she said.